To my child: Watching you learn to read is a true gift

I am watching a universe open up before you.

To my child: Watching you learn to read is a true gift

You are whispering under your breath again—careful you, wary of letting loose the words before they are perfect, before you have conquered them, while you still have to try. You're a few yards away from me in the corner, and you have determined that I must be too distracted to notice you working, to catch the sound of your still-baby voice tripping over syllables, slowly giving life, in your whispered breath, to a world.

You are five, and you are reading, and I am watching a universe open up before you.

If you are like me, you will learn the words, collect and keep them, and they will carry you. You will line your pockets and backpacks and shelves with books. You will have one with you always, most of the time with it open before you.


You will find out that passionate story consumption is an extreme sport in its own right when you skin your knees tripping over curbs and cracks in the sidewalk, or fall off the porch swing distracted. Or when you wake to a bruise on your nose where you dropped a novel nodding off to sleep.

You will decline parties in favor of the journeys you will find within pages. You will walk into libraries and feel your heart skip at the blissful overwhelming number of choices to make, of novels to rest in, or escapes to be had.

You will write your own story, your own person, by trying on the voices of your favorite characters, your soul an amalgam of the heroines you know so well you can't help but become them.

You are five, and you are reading, and you are only beginning.

If you are like me, you will walk now into a world with new definitions. You will race your own mind memorizing spellings and origins, you will learn to twist the words and bend them. You will craft them into a superpower, a cloak of invisibility, a battle ax and a shield.

You will swoon when someday, someone sends you words in a way that you didn't predict them. You will fill journals with teenage tears and early wisdom. You will be able to trace the timeline of your childhood by the way, year by year, new collections of words transition from mysterious to known. You will spend summers lost in pages, lost in becoming, lost in the words. There will be no limit to the places and heartbeats and battles and worlds you will visit. There will be no limit to the distance you can travel in so very little time.

But today, you are five, and the door is only opening.

Today, you are keeping your eyes on the windows, watching the letters you've been reciting suddenly start telling their secrets. Until now, they've been loved individuals, but here they are teaming up to tell you stories, choreographing themselves into dances entirely new. All at once you are holding within you the ability to interpret and tame them, turn them into answers, turn them into something known.

All at once, your language has a new dimension—suddenly, you can know without hearing, you can learn without having to ask. All at once, I am no longer your only conduit and key to information—suddenly, you are becoming curator of your own museum of facts and fictions and truths and names.

If you are like me, you will never stop seeking them. For years, you will read every road sign and sidewalk chalk scribble, every bus stop schedule, every menu posted on a restaurant door, collecting the words and making them your own.

You are five, and you are reading, though you aren't yet ready to tell me. You are five, and you are reading, and for a moment, it is only yours.

"Oh, Chili's," you whisper in the car as we pass it. "Oh, Woolen Ln. Oh, exxxxxit. Oh, road work ahead."

I keep my eyes forward while my heart leaps. I keep my praise to myself so as not to let you know I know, not until you are ready, not until you invite me in. I keep my excitement from tumbling out in long streams of proud mama words that might interrupt the silent magic being born in the car seat behind me.

I keep my words quiet, so as not to interrupt the wonder of your words becoming yours.

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    These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

    Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

    While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

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    I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

    My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

    The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

    Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

    Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

    1. Go apple picking.

    Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

    To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

    2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

    We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

    To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

    3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

    Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

    To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

    4. Have a touch-football game.

    Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

    To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

    5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

    Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

    To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

    This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

    Our Partners

    This post is brought to you by Staples. While this was a sponsored opportunity, all content and opinions expressed here are my own.

    One of the biggest changes in my household once my daughter started homeschooling was that, suddenly, everything and everyone in our home had to start pulling double duty. While I was used to wearing a lot of hats (mom, wife and WFH employee, to name a few), suddenly our dining room was also pulling shifts as a classroom. My laptop was also a virtual teacher. Our living room hutch was also a school supply closet.

    If I didn't want my home to be overrun with an abundance of clutter, I had to find products that could multitask. Here are 10 products that are saving this WFH + homeschooling mama right now.

    Stylish storage cabinet

    Whether I need a place to keep the printer or just want to keep crayons and colored pencils organized, this pretty cabinet provides a mixture of exposed and hidden storage without clashing with my living room decor.

    White board calendar + bulletin board

    With so much on our plates these days, I need a visual reminder of our daily schedule or I'll forget everything. This dry erase version makes it easy to keep track of Zoom meetings and virtual classes—and I also love using the corkboard to display my daughter's latest work from art class.

    Natural Recycled 3-Ring Binder

    From tracking our curriculum progress to organizing my family's paperwork, I can never have enough binders. Even better, this neutral version is pretty enough that I can display them on the bookshelf.

    Bamboo storage drawers

    The instant you start homeschooling, it can feel like you're suddenly drowning in papers, craft supplies and more. Fortunately, these simple bamboo drawers can be tucked into the cabinet or even displayed on top (seriously, they're that cute!) to keep what we need organized and close at hand.

    Laminated world map

    I love this dry-erase map for our geography lessons, but the real secret? It also makes a cute piece of wall decor for my work space.

    Rolling 7-drawer cabinet

    When you're doing it all from home, you sometimes have to roll with the punches—I strongly recommend getting an organizational system that rolls with you. On days when both my husband and I are working from home and I need to move my daughter's classes to another room, this 7-drawer cabinet makes it easy to bring the classroom with us.


    From our first day of school photo to displaying favorite quotes to keep myself motivated, this 12"x18" letterboard is my favorite thing to display in our home.

    Expandable tablet stand

    Word to the wise: Get a pretty tablet stand you won't mind seeing out every day. (Because between virtual playdates, my daughter's screen time and my own personal use, this thing never gets put away.)

    Neutral pocket chart

    Between organizing my daughter's chore chart, displaying our weekly sight words and providing a fits-anywhere place to keep supplies on hand, this handy little pocket chart is a must-have for homeschooling families.

    Totable fabric bins

    My ultimate hack for getting my family to clean up after themselves? These fabric bins. I can use them to organize my desk, store my oldest's books and even keep a bin of toys on hand for the baby to play with while we do school. And when playtime is over, it's easy for everyone to simply put everything back in the bin and pop it in the cabinet.

    Looking for study solutions for older children? Hop over to Grown & Flown for their top picks for Back to School.

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    100 unusual + surprising baby name ideas

    From Adelia to Ziggy.

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    Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

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